The Best Possible Chance

Laundry day, grocery day, cleaning day, rest day. Writing day!

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(By this point, I hope “rainy day” goes without saying.)

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Sundays are nice, aren’t they? Or at least the first fifty percent of them, before the afternoon hours start slipping away and the Sunday Scaries start slinking in.

A week ago Friday, I was promoted. Because my self-esteem is in the toilet, I thought for sure that I was about to be fired. You just never know when you’re called into those sorts of meetings, do you?

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I’m hopeful there will be in a time in my life when a perfectly harmless “hey Hannah, do you have a minute?” does not prompt an automatic avalanche of anxiety, but we’re not quite there yet.

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It’s a relief, actually, to stop pretending to be somewhere I’m not. It’s a relief to take a break from trying [insert: SO DAMN HARD] to be further along. In my career, in my twenties, in this whole stop-beating-yourself-up-business, in relationships.

It’s a relief not to be writing in the hope that some guy I like will read something I wrote and change his mind. What we’re doing today — it’s just for us.

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I wonder if you feel like you have your shit together. I wonder if at first you’d laugh and shake your head no, an emphatic no, but then if a minute later, you might reconsider and think to yourself: except in a lot of ways, I really do.

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That’s about where I am. For the first time, my twenties don’t feel so disastrous. I’m earning enough to live. I’m not ashamed of what I do. I work for a great company. I’m doing something about retirement. I like my boss. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I love my little apartment, which (finally, finally!) did not require a co-signer. I own four green growing things, which are, in fact, growing. I have friends, both from here and from away. I know just what I’d make if you were to come to dinner.

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I have a calendar with “doctor” and “dentist” already scribbled into some of the squares. I’m able to write once or twice a week. I have a pretty solid handle on who I am and who I’d like to become. I’ve forgiven my parents for the [relatively few] parts of my childhood that weren’t picture-perfect. I feel good about my family, my relationships with my siblings. I’ve let go of all of my ex-boyfriends (after much ado). I know how to be alone, and fight and fight and fight for it to be fine, and then better than fine. I have a much sharper sense of what I’m looking for now, at twenty-five, than I did at twenty-one or twenty-two.

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I guess you could say that finally, a mere three-point-five years out of school, I feel a little bit proud of myself. Even if I very definitely have some issues. Don’t we all though, really? If not an eating disorder, then something else. My therapist says this all the time, or whenever I revert back to saying I’m not ready to date: everybody has something.

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“Everybody has something,” I repeat to myself, when fifteen months of trying and failing and trying again starts to feel like a dirty little secret. One that’d be unfair to just sort of spring on someone.

By the way, sometimes I feel like I can’t handle life and I start eating too many vegetables and not enough carbs. And then I can’t sleep properly, I can’t squat half as much as I used to, I can’t keep my anxiety in check, and I can’t face anything messy or inconclusive or uncomfortable. I start occupying this quiet space where I can’t be reached. You’ll know that’s where I am because of the way I start to hold myself. You’ll look at my body and you’ll see the update, clear as if a sign had been clasped around my neck: Cannot Be Disturbed.

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This last week was a far cry from any of that. I finally made it to Ava Gene’s with a friend in town from NYC, and I forgot all about being anorexic, the way I used to for weeks and weeks, and we ate the most creative things. Crispy rice and candied beets. Parsnips and pistachio. Citrus and olive. Sunchokes scrubbed clean, roasted and scattered between tangy pockets of goat cheese. Crumbles of lamb in white sauce, and some kind of pasta neither of us could pronounce (or wrangle into a neat wrap around our forks). I loved it all, every bite. And even better than the food was the company. We parked illegally and laughed and got soaked and took bad pictures, and it was a gentle reminder that there’s more to life than the tired tale of what I ate, was it too much, and how best to compensate now.

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I’m fully aware that this is a difficult time, because starting a new job is always fraught with uncertainty. But I’m lucky in that this time, only my job will be changing. I’m not moving to a new city, I’m not struggling to find a place to live, I’m not trying to figure out where to run or which gym to join or which grocery stores to frequent. I’m not going to be totally without support, without resources. My commute will stay the same; it’ll just be my desk that’s moving down a few feet. I know I can do this.

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Even though, gulp, of course there is a chance that I WON’T be able to do it, and I’ll find it’s far too much math and Excel and accounting, for a French major and a blog writer. Or I might discover it requires too much traveling, too much public speaking, too much social energy. Or more broadly: too much juggling of all the things, and trying to look calm/cool/collected while flying by the seat of my pants. (Does anyone actually LIKE doing that?)

It helps that my boss has so much confidence in me, even if I don’t have it in myself quite yet. I said that I was flattered, when he asked if I was interested in the position, and he looked at me for about thirty seconds before replying: “don’t be; you earned it.”

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And I have. I have earned it. And it might prove to be too big of a stretch for me right now, but we’re all going in with eyes wide open, and damn it, I want to try. I want this chance.

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I know I won’t be able to do it still-sick. I know I need to get the eating stuff under control STAT (or less in control, as it turns out) if I want to succeed. I will not feel capable if I’m not, in fact, capable. And so I need to eat. Enough, really and truly. At every meal, the way I did for months and months before things started going downhill again.

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Now it’s my mother’s voice that I hear in my head, so comforting and soft and somehow not yet tired of talking me through: sweetie, you want to give yourself the best possible chance. Give yourself the best possible chance — to get better, to be happy, to meet someone, to do well at work. You have more mental toughness than anyone I know; you just need to redirect it again. When you add something to a meal, instead of thinking “I-am-a-failure, I-have-failed,” think: “I am giving myself the best possible chance.”

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{Portland window via @portland, downtown Portland via @megan.ell, snowy tree via @russellpenny, The Internet Will Be Just Fine Without You via @letterfolkco, single flower via @nathiya, misty landscape via @young.seeker, streetcar wires via @grahamgoebel, Columbia River Gorge via @bridgeandburn, Mt. Hood from St. John’s Bridge via @pdxnatives, St. John’s Bridge via @drtnic, Portland sunset via @gemini_digitized, falls via @jhamil_bader, Columbia River highway via @nicholaspeterwilson — all on Instagram.}

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18 thoughts on “The Best Possible Chance

    • Thanks for commenting, Gee. You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but the fact that you can say you’re struggling probably means you’re further along than you think you are. Sending you all the uplifting vibes!

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. Your post spoke to me in many ways. I don’t know you, but I am so proud of you for dealing with your something your way. And to get a promotion at the same time, well, I think you deserve several high fives. Listen to your mum, she sounds like a pretty grounded woman too.

    Hugs xyz…

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